Best Stories in the Resident Evil Series, Ranked

Resident Evil 4 (2023) gameplay

Best Stories in the Resident Evil Series, Ranked

From the series’ origins in 1996 all the way to its latest mainline entries and reimaginings of classic games, the Resident Evil franchise continues to spin one of the most complex narratives in all of gaming. What begins as a mostly-straightforward tale of science gone wrong and corporate hubris eventually transforms into much larger stakes for the series’ heroes as they fight against ever-increasing incidents of bio-terrorism and proliferation of bio-organic weapons (BOWs). With Resident Evil Village successfully tying together the overarching series lore with the story of unlikely hero Ethan Winters and setting the stage for the franchise’s next chapter, there’s never been a better time to rank the Resident Evil series by its best stories.

Determining the order for a ranking of Resident Evil games can depend on a multitude of factors, especially where each game’s story is concerned. As a series that’s known for its over-the-top action, grotesque monsters, and off-the-wall plots of biological threats bringing about the end of the world as we know it, the series isn’t exactly an exercise in subtlety. Still, it’s the characters and the smaller, more human moments in the games that contribute to some of its all-time best stories. The top entry on this list lands there not just for its gameplay, but for the emotionally affecting tale at its core.

10. Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5 key art

©Resident Evil key art

Considering how incredible Resident Evil 4 is from both a gameplay and story standpoint, Resident Evil 5 was always going to have a tough act to follow. Thankfully, Capcom comes through by delivering a tale featuring series mainstay Chris Redfield as he simultaneously investigates a new threat and saves an old friend. Joining up with Chris is series newcomer Sheva Alomar, and together the two head into the remote African province of Kijuju to track down a missing BSAA team and stop a warlord. Very quickly, the situation devolves into all-out chaos, with an arms-dealer-turned-BOW warning Chris about the impending end of the world and a mysterious masked figure thwarting the heroes at every turn.

Players eventually learn that none other than Albert Wesker is the game’s antagonist, and the reveal that the mysterious adversary is Jill Valentine under his mind control is an excellent twist that makes things personal for our hero Chris. Thankfully, Chris can stop Wesker and restore Jill’s consciousness, but he has to travel into the heart of a volcano to do so. The game has its fair share of ridiculous moments (boulder-punching, anyone?) but that ends up being part of its charm. It will be interesting to see what Capcom does differently with the game’s narrative in its inevitable remake.

9. Resident Evil 0

Resident Evil Zero title card

©eShop artwork

For anyone who ever found themselves wondering “How did the S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team get lost in the Spencer Mansion?”, Resident Evil Zero is your game. Taking place in the hours leading up to the events of the original Resident Evil, this prequel puts players in control of S.T.A.R.S. rookie and Bravo Team medic Rebecca Chambers as she accompanies her unit to investigate the bizarre murders occurring in the Raccoon City outskirts. After discovering a crashed military convoy and plenty of corpses nearby, the Bravo Team diverts their investigation to track down the missing personnel, which happens to include an escaped convict. Rebecca is the first to come across the prisoner, Billy Coen, and together the two have to form an unlikely partnership to survive the night.

What makes Resident Evil Zero essential playing for longtime series fans are the gaps that it fills in with its story, both explaining how the T-Virus came to be as well as the history of the Spencer Mansion and its construction. Billy proves himself to be much more heroic than initial impressions might suggest, and the game’s conclusion sees the S.T.A.R.S. members and Coen part ways amicably, declaring the missing convict legally dead and giving him a chance to start a new life. Perhaps most importantly, Resident Evil Zero‘s story finally answers the question of what happened to the Bravo Team members before the events of the original game.

8. Resident Evil: Revelations

Resident Evil Revelations title card

©eShop artwork

Though it’s not technically a mainline game, Resident Evil: Revelations simultaneously tells one of the series’ best stories and outshines the other release in the franchise from the same year, Resident Evil 6. Telling the story of the origins of the BSAA as well as shining a light on Chris and Jill’s activities leading up to Resident Evil 5, Revelations allows players to control both Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine at different points to uncover a nefarious plot involving an inside operation to make the BSAA a necessary force at the cost of human lives. The game begins with a flashback into a massive BOW tragedy known as the Teragrigia Incident, and then picks up years later with both Chris and Jill working as part of the BSAA to prevent such an incident from occurring again.

The plot eventually unravels to reveal that none other than Chris and Jill’s trusted commander is the mastermind behind the game’s events, staging yet another BOW disaster to prove the BSAA’s worth to the investors and governmental organizations that provide their funding. Rather than opt for an over-the-top and bombastic delivery of this plot, Revelations‘ story is mostly revealed piece-by-piece in a satisfying “whodunnit” mystery that keeps players on the edge of their seats.

7. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard key art

©Digital Storefront Artwork

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard takes some massive risks in featuring a brand new protagonist and antagonists, specifically deviating from the established series canon to deliver a brand-new tale that cleans the slate for the series moving forward. The gamble absolutely pays off, with the Baker Family and the Molded serving as some of the more terrifying villains in the series history and the relatively inept and incapable Ethan Winters being more of a “normal” hero in a series that had gradually seen its human protagonists become more and more like super-soldiers. While searching for his missing wife in a remote Louisiana swamp, Ethan ends up stumbling into a real-life horror that there might not be any escaping from.

Obvious inspiration from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre aside, Biohazard‘s wholly original tale and new take on the franchise’s horror would prove to be incredibly refreshing, essentially acting as a soft reboot for the Resident Evil series and injecting a much-needed sense of purpose into its future. The ways that the game eventually connects it back to the overarching series lore are examined more in-depth in its follow-up (more on that below) but the surprise arrival of a longtime franchise hero during the game’s climax is one of the all-time best “jaw-dropping” moments in a series full of shock value.

6. Resident Evil VIllage

Resident Evil Village key art

©Digital Storefront Artwork

The eighth game in the Resident Evil series, Resident Evil Village, has players once again assume the role of Ethan Winters just a short time after the events of Biohazard. After reuniting with his missing wife and fathering a new baby daughter, the couple relocated to remote Europe as a way of staying out of the crosshairs of those who might harm them. When a hit squad arrives one night to kill Mia and kidnap Ethan’s daughter, Rose, the unlikely hero once again finds himself at the center of a nefarious bio-terrorist plot. Thankfully, the intervening years have seen Ethan receive training from the BSAA, resulting in him being a much more capable combatant now.

Village is notorious for featuring some excellent villains and a unique “carnival of horror” theme in which the player makes their way through 4 distinct areas of the titular village to face off against the game’s core group of antagonists. As a result, each area utilizes a different kind of horror trope, and the story successfully connects the Ethan Winters saga to the grand lore of the Progenitor Virus, the Umbrella Corporation, and other mainstays of the series canon. That, and the bittersweet ending acts as an emotional gut-punch and proverbial changing of the guard to the series’ next era.

5. Resident Evil 3

Resident Evil 3 key art

©Resident Evil key art

Entering the top 5 stories in the Resident Evil series, we start to break into remake territory. Rather than classify each of these games as separate entities, we’ll instead consider both the original and the remake to tell two halves of the same story. Resident Evil 3 tells players the events that occur coinciding with Resident Evil 2 but from the perspective of original hero Jill Valentine. As Jill prepares to leave Raccoon City and meet up with Chris to investigate Umbrella, a BOW arrives hell-bent on killing off the remaining S.T.A.R.S. members. After narrowly avoiding capture and death at the hands of this new Nemesis, Jill links up with members of the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service, or UBCS, to escape the city.

Ultimately, Resident Evil 3 succeeds as an excellent perspective shift from the story of Resident Evil 2, but it really only succeeds within that context. As a standalone tale, it doesn’t offer much in terms of narrative payoff or additions to the series lore, but at least players get to see the events that lead to Jill escaping Raccoon City and going on to join a global anti-BOW taskforce. Resident Evil 3‘s ultimate saving grace is the Nemesis, whose infection of Jill at a critical point in the story significantly ups the stakes for the player and creates a sense of escalating tension that lasts until the credits roll.

4. Resident Evil – Code: Veronica

Resident Evil - Code: Veronica key art

©Digital Storefront Artwork

There’s a reason that Code: Veronica continues to rank high on the list of “most-wanted” series remake, and it has largely to do with the game’s excellent characters and story. A standalone tale taking place between Resident Evil 3 and Resident Evil 4, Code: Veronica examines Claire Redfield’s journey to track down her brother Chris and join him on his crusade to stop the evil pharmaceutical giant, Umbrella. Unfortunately, her investigation takes her on the wrong path, resulting in her capture and imprisonment at the hands of Umbrella. Along the way, she meets a new ally, comes across the mysterious Ashford twins (descendants of one of Umbrella’s founders, Edward Ashford), and finally reunites with her brother, Chris.

As the only game in the series to see the Redfield siblings team up, Code: Veronica already has a special place in the series canon, but it ends up providing so much more in terms of how it fleshes out the origins of the T-Virus. Additionally, the return of Albert Wesker is an incredible twist that goes on to impact the rest of the series, with Chris and Wesker facing off again in Resident Evil 5 following their unresolved fight in Code: Veronica. For the gaps that it fills in in the series’ lore and the ways that it sets up the conflict of future entries, Code: Veronica is an essential Resident Evil story.

3. Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 title card

©eShop artwork

There’s not much to say about Resident Evil 4 that hasn’t already been said, but this chapter in the Resident Evil saga ends up being one of the best games in the series for both its gameplay and its narrative. Players once again assume the role of Resident Evil 2‘s Leon Kennedy, now a high-ranking Secret Service agent, as he heads to a rural region of Spain to rescue the President’s daughter. At the time of Resident Evil 4‘s release, this was the first that fans had actually seen of Leon after his inclusion in other games as a file entry or story beat, and reuniting with one of the franchise’s best heroes is every bit as cathartic as one might imagine.

Interestingly, there’s not much information to go on in the first two-thirds of Resident Evil 4 that connects it to the rest of the series, but eventually, things begin to unfold and it becomes obvious how Las Plagas, Umbrella, and the T-Virus are all connected. The Separate Ways DLC starring series anti-hero Ada Wong also helps bring things full circle, even featuring an appearance from Albert Wesker. Regardless of whether you’re playing the original or the remake, Resident Evil 4 has one of the most satisfying narratives of any game in the series, and the game goes a long way toward further establishing the heroism and integrity of Leon Kennedy.

2. Resident Evil

Resident Evil (2002) title card

©eShop artwork

It’s nearly impossible to rank the Resident Evil series based on their stories and not feature the original at or near the top. At this point, practically everyone knows the setup: mysterious murders occurring on the outskirts of a remote town in Colorado prompt the local police force to send its Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) to investigate. After one of the units’ teams goes missing in the course of their investigation, the other team is sent to follow up and locate them. And, predictably, all hell breaks loose. Taking on the role of one of two members of the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team, it’s up to the player to discover the cause behind the mysterious murders and strange happenings within the Spencer Mansion, all while rescuing any remaining teammates.

The simplicity of the original Resident Evil setup belies the excellent twists and turns that the narrative takes, especially the reveals that one of the S.T.A.R.S.’ own is involved. The game borrows liberally from its spiritual predecessor Sweet Home while trading ghosts for zombies, and it also has plenty of inspiration from George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but it manages to take something that seems supernatural and spin it into a very plausible tale of corporate greed and unchecked scientific progress. Not only that, the original game features such excellent characters that they continue to practically carry the series.

1. Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2 (2019) key art

©Digital Storefront Artwork

In terms of Resident Evil games with the best stories, there’s little arguing against the incredible Resident Evil 2 receiving top honors. Taking place in the days following the Spencer Mansion Incident and events of Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2 puts players in control of one of two heroes as they attempt to navigate the T-Virus outbreak making its way into Raccoon City proper. If the original game is Night of the Living Dead, Resident Evil 2 is Dawn of the Dead, and it’s just about as close as any game has ever been able to come toward reaching the heartbreaking reality of what happens to life in the wake of a zombie apocalypse.

Like the first game in the series, Resident Evil 2 introduces so many iconic and important characters that continue to have an impact on the series, like original hero Chris Redfield’s younger sister Claire and rookie RPD officer Leon Kennedy. Additionally, the tragic “star-crossed lovers” dynamic between Leon and super spy Ada Wong lends the game some emotional weight that simply isn’t present in the first Resident Evil, as does the inclusion of Sherry Birkin and Claire’s desire to protect her. Not only does Resident Evil 2 qualify as the best game in the series (original or remake), but it also happens to feature the best story and characters.

To top